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Online menus are a good thing, and a number of companies, mostly regionally oriented, have tried to aggregate them and sell advertising and delivery services around them. I am a big user of MenuShark in my area.At least two companies have especially ambitious plans. One is, which was sold last month to New York Magazine for additional development. Another is Dotmenu, a 30-person NYC outfit that has been quickly adding markets and services.

The company was launched 10 years ago as a university food ordering service ( CMP Media vet Ken Cron (Remember Communications Week?) serves as chairman. Dotmenu expanded a year and a half ago to, and is now working with 2,500 restaurants, typically processing 10,000 online food orders per day. More than 3 million online orders are projected to be processed during 2008.

Most of’s restaurants are situated in a handful of key cities, including Atlanta, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But more than 200 cities are served by the increasingly national dining portal. Currently, the bulk of Dotmenu’s business continues to come from makes up 15 percent of the company’s revenue.’s modus is simple enough. It tries to get as many menus as possible; one method involves paying freelancers $2 a menu to collect them, or a “moms” network. More and more restaurants are sending them in, especially since Google Local started syndicating the menus. Once restaurants are posted, they can be upsold to the company’s online lead, ordering and transaction processing platform, typically taking 8 percent to 10 percent of every bill (in addition to an annual fee of $235).

In an effort to become more of a “dining portal,” attracting more “waiter” restaurants, the service has been adding community services, such as neighborhood proximity, ratings and reviews, photo uploading and links to OpenTable‘s restaurant reservations. Now it wants to also add a wider swath of online restaurant marketing services, including Web site development, video, e-mail marketing, SEO and SEM, and cellphone text services.

Heading up the company’s team is CEO Frank Blot, a former Vivendi Games exec; President and founder Michael Saunders; and CRO Tony Wills, a former exec with RHD, Newsday Interactive and most recently Quigo, until its sale to AOL.

Wills, who came on board just last week, feels the opportunity to add technology-based solutions to restaurants is huge. “Over half of the 500,000 restaurants in the country are independently owned and technology strapped,” he notes. “Now, even the small mom-and-pop operation can have access to [top-level] services and systems.”

Video is expected to be especially hot for the company. Wills has plenty of experience with video from his days at Tribune’s Newsday Interactive, where he pioneered vertical directories. Even though it was several years ago, more than 200 Long Island restaurants were participating advertisers, and 82 percent were buying video, which required a 12-month contract. “It was the No. 1 traffic driver.

“We were told we couldn’t do more than $40 to $50 per month,” he says. “But our average price point was $150 per month.”

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. This type of market is huge now… so beneficial! We particularly liked when in NYC. It’ll be interesting to see just how much this industry grows and evolves in the upcoming years.

  2. It’ll be especially interesting given the nature and mindset of restaurant operators. Pardon the pun, but they have so much on their plate that technology and marketing are never the priority they should be.

    They also don’t have time to keep information up-to-date which becomes annoying when consumers are searching for what we all are searching for…up-to-date information. These issues become inflamed as you move toward the mom and pop end of the restaurant spectrum. And these are the folks that need the most help!

    As with all marketing strategies and technologies managing expectations may be the biggest challenge with restaurants. Playing the reality card stinks especially when trying to extract a meaningful budget to have a shot at producing a more than meaningful ROI.

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